Baidu Pay Per Click: 7 Tips for a Successful Campaign

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Baidu is the most popular search engine in China, with over 400 million users. When Western marketers think of entering the Chinese market, Baidu is often the first marketing channel they consider, especially for paid search marketing.

I’ve had the opportunity of working with many Western companies that are experienced with Google AdWords, but new to Baidu. I’ve prepared seven tips for doing well on Baidu based on the most common issues and questions I’ve come across.

1) Localization is Key

China is a huge market that is highly competitive, so Chinese consumers are accustomed to having companies do things their way. At the bare minimum, the website and ads should be in Chinese. However, that really is the bare bare minimum.

The process of localization is a lot more than translation of content. The business strategy and marketing campaign should be considered from the ground up. If you’re going to be entering the Chinese market, you should be prepared to adjust your business to China, even to the point of coming up with products tailored to the Chinese market.

When it comes to pay-per-click campaigns specifically, keyword research and competitor research should be done anew, rather than relying on research done for English-language readers.

2) Provide Real-time Support

If you’ve ever spent time poking around Chinese websites, you probably noticed that they love chat boxes! Chinese consumers expect to be able to speak to a human very soon, if not instantly. The most common methods of communication are chat box, QQ messenger, and phone.

Chinese Internet users use real-time chat to get information, but also just so they can reach out and make a connection with a human being. When adding real-time support to a campaign, we typically expect to see an increase in conversions of three to four times. In fact, for e-commerce type sites, I think real-time chat is a must.

Real-time chat functionality isn’t totally new to English-language marketers either. For example, it’s widely used on hosting websites.

3) You’re Probably a ‘David’, Your Competitors are ‘Goliaths’

In most cases, the foreign company entering China will be facing competitors that have a much bigger ad budget and are much more experienced with the Chinese market. I’ve come across this scenario many times, especially with small businesses.

To beat them, you can’t rely on brawn. So, let them have the top rankings for now. Be prepared to strike intelligently. Create a better product, better landing pages, a better website and/or better ads. Choose keywords and bids strategically. Continuously test and improve until you have high enough profitability to increase the budget and become one of the big competitors yourself.

4) Flaunt Your Foreignness

What do you think when you read “Made in China”? Do you think “cheap”? “Low quality”? Perhaps you even think “unsafe.” Well, Chinese people tend to think the same thing.

A foreign brand, and especially a Western brand, will be perceived as being higher quality in most cases. This perception can be used to your advantage. If your company is Italian for example, tell them! Make it part of your brand image, include it in your ad copy and website copy.

This point may seem confusing since I’ve already mentioned how you need to do things the Chinese way in points one and two above. To clarify, this is what I mean: Adapt your product and service to China, but present a foreign brand image.

5) The Baidu Account Setup Process is Not as Simple as AdWords

Unlike Google, Baidu does not setup ad accounts itself. Instead, it outsources this task to a network of resellers. Some of these resellers are clueless when it comes to working with non-Chinese clients. Reseller regulations and authority also varies.

Regardless of the reseller, Baidu always requires a scanned version of the business certificate of incorporation or other proof of business documentation. Plus, they require that the business name on the certificate of incorporation is used on the website to be advertised. They usually request other minor changes to the website, as well. However, advertisers can usually get away with making these edits to their website, then reverting them back after the account has been setup.

Advertisers do not need a .cn domain, or a Chinese government ICP license, or a Chinese phone number in most cases.

Baidu currently requires an initial deposit of 5,000 Chinese Yuan (About 800 USD) which will be used for account credit. Plus, there is a standard account setup fee of 1,200 Yuan, but there may be room for negotiation on that.

6) Search Marketing Agencies Are Different in China

If you hire a search marketing agency, make sure you know what you’re getting. There’s a breed of marketing agency in China that isn’t quite the same as their Western counterpart.

For one, the marketing agency may be a reseller itself, which means they’re working on commission from Baidu. They’re paid by the client to manage the account, but they’re also paid by Baidu, which provides motivation to increase expenditure.

Second, such agencies are focused on working with the Baidu platform only. That means they aren’t doing any analysis or work on the website. They may not even use any Web analytics at all. Some of them are really just ‘operators’ who make changes to the account based on feedback from the advertisers.

Finally, they may have different views when it comes to working with multiple competing businesses simultaneously. Guess what happens when a marketing agency is on Baidu commission, and they’re promoting you and two of your competitors? They definitely have a strong incentive to ramp up the expenditure to the maximum possible amount.

7) Plan Your Web Analytics Integration

AdWords integrates very well with Google Analytics; Baidu’s pay-per-click platform does not. If you are using Google Analytics, the Baidu ads will need to have Google custom URL parameters added in order to provide Google Analytics with useful data such as the keyword used.

Another option is to use Baidu’s analytics platform, which integrates very well with their ad platform. There are other advantages to using ‘Baidu Analytics’ as well such as reporting on the activities of individual users, and a nice heat map tool. However, there are major drawbacks: Baidu Analytics has major accuracy issues, is only available in Chinese, and doesn’t allow for highly customizable reports.

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Tait Lawton
Tait Lawton is the founder of Nanjing Marketing Group, a company that provides Baidu paid search advertising management services and other Chinese-language digital marketing services... Read Full Bio
Tait Lawton

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  • Markus

    Amazing article Tait! Have you an account on Baidu? If yes, where can try to open one? The cost for one campaing is 1200 Dollar for setup account + 800 dollar for to init campaing?

    • Tait

      It’s only 1,200 Chinese Yuan for the setup fee. And 5,000 Yuan is the minimum deposit. Those are the official amounts for most account types. It can vary though.

  • Meagan Sutton

    This is a great post. I definitely agree about the localization of keywords. In most international cases, keywords need to be completely redone, as word-for-word translations don’t carry the same meaning across languages. Transcreation is needed to localize the translations to keywords that make sense in the local marketplace. Having a localized landing page is also very beneficial. If consumers are clicking on your campaign and your landing page is unappealing or mistranslated, it’s going to cause confusion. You also bring up a great point about maintaining brand image. It is true that Chinese consumers are going to want to know about a brand’s foreign status, and mentioning this in your campaign keeps a consistent brand image. This is important for upholding reputation and keeping your global message consistent.

  • Li Papinaho

    Wow, this was exactly the job what I did for whole day yesterday, I should read it one day earlier:)

    However, I still plan to suggest my boss to read this articie! Because you write much better than me!

  • Ernie Diaz

    Can’t stress the stress involved for Western Companies in Step 5 enough.

    Opening up a Baidu PPC account for a major German science brand, ALREADY established in China, involved months of Beijing Baidu incompetence, unexplained delays, restarts, extra paperwork requests…had to switch to the Shanghai office and start over finally. Still waiting for Beijing Baidu to return 5,000RMB deposit.

  • Nathalie Yang

    Thanks for the post! Learnt lots of useful information from it. I’d likt to ask one question: I’ve been working on opening an account for months on Baidu but the process is just so complex. The worst thing is that the person in charge with our account seems to be not working there anymore. I’ve tried their customer service number and e-mail but either the hotline is not working or no one answer my quiry. Do you know any good approach to get efficient contact with Baidu? Thanks a lot!

    • Tait

      Is it for a product/service for which there are extra regulations? If that’s the case, it may indeed take months even if you get somebody that knows what they’re doing.

      However, if it isn’t, then the person helping you just doesn’t know what they’re doing.

      At Nanjing Marketing Group, we process applications for clients ourselves and do this all the time. Over time, we got better at it and built up relationships.

      • Nathalie Yang

        The problem is they didn’t give us clear step-by-step instruction on how to open an account. Once we submitted some documents, they requested for translation and other documents. Last time I spoke to the person on phone, she asked me to provide the Chinese title of our company. After the company decided the Chinese title, we have no clue if it’s necessary to get the name registered. However, the number of that person is not working anymore. No respond from the e-mail address. The Baidu promotion hotline is not working and people from the 24hr hotline have no idea of the situation! The whole process has been running for months and haven’t had new progress for weeks. We really need this to be sorted asap.

  • Ernie Diaz

    Now THAT’s the reality of working with Baidu, Nathalie. Biggest Chinese Internet company or not, it is rife with incompetence and needless red tape. We just had one of our client’s accounts suspended, a Government client, because they had to set up a Chinese company to register in China. Some genius at Baidu reasoned that if the site is registered under that Chinese company, than the whole government site should not be about investing in that country or studying in that country, but rather investing in and studying with THAT CHINESE SHELL company. Luckily we’ve cultivated some high level connect at Baidu, and once we finally got ahold of them, the problem disappeared. Qing Dynasty-level Nonsense! Get in touch if you want some tips.

    • Nathalie Yang

      Yes please, we definitely need some tips, Ernie. We did think about opening a shell office but the situation you faced doesn’t sound good to me. We have no Guanxi in Baidu. I can’t even phone their customer service because of the time difference. If you could give me some advice that would be very helpful. Thanks!

  • herbertwest1

    I have a Baidu account and i need to work onto some keyword analysis… but once logged in, i cannot find anymore, where the hell is the Baidu Keyword tool?

    Can you please help me?

    • Tait

      I just added a FAQ about this a couple days ago. 🙂 See